William F. Binnicker, Jr., 47, of Easley and Rufus G. Revis, 78, of Anderson, pled guilty today in federal court to conspiracy to commit bank fraud. According to United States Attorney Bill Nettles, the charge is a violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1349. United States District Judge Timothy M. Cain of Anderson accepted the plea and will impose sentence after he has reviewed the presentence report which will be prepared by the U.S. Probation Office.
Evidence presented at the change of plea hearing established that Riviera Estates was a failed real estate development in the upstate of South Carolina. Rufus Revis and William Binnicker joined forces to put the project together. At base, Riviera Estates was a straw buyer scheme where investors would borrow the funds to construct homes in Riviera Estates and split the profits with Revis and Binnicker upon the completion and sale of the homes. According to one investor, “Rufus and William approached us, [and said] we were going to make $50,000 each. They would pay all costs, we would have no money in at all, they would just use our good credit for the loans. That’s all they needed was our good credit.”
In addition to his interest in Riveria Estates, Binnicker was the loan officer for the loans issued by Wells Fargo and Regions Bank to the investors. Many of the loan applications completed by Binnicker contained false statements including the purpose of loan. Most stated that the property would be a primary or secondary residence, but Binnicker knew that this was an investment project. Several applications also had inflated amounts of income for the borrowers. These false statements were made to induce the banks to approve the loans and to procure favorable interest rates.
During and in relation to the closings of multiple transactions, Revis signed affidavits stating that there were no contacts or side agreements affecting the property, when he knew very well that there existed a Riviera Estates Investor Agreement concerning the property. Hence, bank officials were kept in the dark about the investor agreements. The banks were also unaware that Binnicker had an interest in Riviera Estates.
Law enforcement estimates that Wells Fargo and Regions Bank were defrauded out of approximately $2 million.
Nettles stated the maximum penalty Binnicker and Revis can receive is a fine of $1,000,000 and/or imprisonment for 30 years, plus a special assessment of $100.
The case was investigated by agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the United States Postal Inspection Service. Assistant United States Attorney Bill Watkins of the Greenville office handled the case.